Will GM's Charging Stations Jump-Start EV Efforts?

General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM) announced a partnership with Pilot to build about 2,000 charging stations at 500 Pilot and Flying J locations. They should all be in place in three years.

A look at the map GM released shows that many of these stations are in areas of the county that do not have heavy concentrations of population. Because most electric cars travel 250 miles or so on a charge, this network takes on special significance. GM claims this will put charging stations at “50-mile intervals” across the country. It is part of GM’s $750 million investment to build out a charging infrastructure.

Mary Barra, GM’s board chair and chief executive, commented on the plan: “We are committed to an all-electric, zero-emissions future, and ensuring that the right charging infrastructure is in place is a key piece of the puzzle.”

GM’s challenge is not building stations. It is selling electric vehicles (EVs). The competition it faces is stiff, with the wave of other manufacturers led by Tesla. By most appearances, GM is behind both Tesla and Ford. Ford’s giant rollout of the F-150 Lightning will challenge any EV success of GM’s Chevy Silverado or the Dodge Ram competition. These are the three top-selling vehicles in America. Chevy says it will have a Silverado EV, but not until over a year from now. With parts shortages, even that plan could be ambitious. The only EV that Chevy, GM’s largest division, currently sells is the unpopular Bolt.

GM owners will get special rates at the new stations. That is only a substantial value to GM if people buy its EVs in impressive numbers. Otherwise, these will just be a chain of mostly empty locations.

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